Developers fight over location of homeless navigation center
Two prominent Portland developers are fighting over whether to open a homeless shelter and navigation center near the Pearl District.
Homer Williams wants to open the temporary facility on city-owned land near the west end of the Broadway Bridge. Columbia Sportwear executive Tim Boyle has pledged $1.5 million toward the project, which would be built and operated by Oregon Harbor of Hope, a nonprofit organization founded by Williams.
But Jim Winkler is challenging the cleanup plan for the location approved by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The property has been used by railroads in the past and is too contaminated for occupancy without being cleaned up. Winkler has asked DEQ to reconsider its approval, saying the plan it approved is not as complete as the one previously required for an adjacent parcel where a building housing the OSU Food Innovation Center is located.
"It's a matter of environmental justice. I'm requesting that everyone be treated equally. Why should a lower standard be applied to marginalized people?" says Winkler.
Winkler admits he owns property in the area, but insists that is not the reason he asked DEQ to reconsider its approval. Winkler says he does not any plans for his property at this time.
Williams could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Oregon Harbor of Hope project was first announced at a press conference on April 9 attended Williams, Boyle, and such civic leaders as Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler; Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury; Portland State University President Rahmat Shoureshi; and David Bangsberg, the founding dean of the joint Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health.
Williams planned to have the facility opened by the fall but had to delay the start of construction in order to complete a cleanup plan for the property, which is owned by Prosper Portland, the city's economic development agency.
DEQ approved a " Focused Remedial Action Plan for the Harbor of Hope Navigation Center" on Sept. 14. Winkler asked that it be reconsidered on Oct. 19.
Winkler says if the DEQ turns down his reconsideration request, he will probably challenge it in Marion County Circuit Court.
Winkler praises Williams for wanting to help the homeless, and says that he has been trying to find a suitable site for a comprehensive service center, too. He had bid on the former University of the Western States property in East Portland, but it was recently sold to Linfield College instead.
Winkler says he believes the former Multnomah County Wapato Jail is a better site for such a facility than the one Williams is working on, in part because the Broadway Bridge could collapse in a earthquake.
"I wish Homer well, just at another locations," says Winkler.
You can read Winkler's request for reconsideration here.